Poem 274 ± March 4, 2016

Nathaniel A. Siegel

i follow the lead
of the man with eyes closed
blue John Dugdale
still sees
the titles of books
i can read from here
do i include them all
in random order
or just these
A Journal of the Plague Years
by Walter Holland
The Art of A.I.D.S. by Baker
Don’t Leave Me This Way:
Art in the Age of A.I.D.S.
NGA publisher
above my head extends
a black arm of a black man
photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe
the ambulance outside is stuck
in slow moving traffic
the siren screams
as only New York City
residents can hear
it blastingly loud
and then whoosh
relative quiet
relative silence
two journals down
a book Living With A.I.D.S.
A Photographic Journal
a young boy cries
the drivers press their horns
the attendants in the parking
garage for Memorial Sloan Kettering
Cancer Hospital create this
endless lineup of cars moving
how the drivers must feel
how the patient must feel
in the auditorium of Cornell Weill
Medical Center I heard Larry Kramer
speak to medical students and doctors
organ transplants are next he said
Larry received a new liver
the organs inside break down
do they fail, expire, work too hard
fighting this virus with the help
of existing pills
ones we gay men didn’t have before
he Larry Kramer and many many
other men and women fought our
“government” for
pushed them around who dragged their feet/
Martin recalls men like skeletons
carrying their laundry in bags he could
barely lift so the bags dragged along the
city sidewalks
I did ask him this question as I ask you
Who was the first person you knew who died
of A.I.D.S. ?
Martin said he had a friend a hispanic woman
sleep on his couch the next morning
Martin looked to the ceiling above the couch
for the leak the water must be coming in
from somewhere everything soaked the
sheets the cushions sopping wet
Martin looks at me night sweats fever
she was the first a straight hispanic friend
did i retell his telling with the same
drama gravitas humor that Martin did
will you will he will she forgive me God
if i don’t have her name at hand in my
failing mind now i could call Martin
he’s still here
remember to breathe as my stomach
tightens and continue to write the telling
Karen’s first male lover died of A.I.D.S.
I have two collages he created one male
one female she saved the work for many
years, then was ready to let them go
I asked for the collages I have them
I will find a home for them before my time
is up my life’s purpose perhaps
Visual A.I.D.S. a new york city organization
does just that preserves artwork of artists
who died from complications of H.I.V./A.I.D.S.
virus and artists living with H.I.V./ A.I.D.S. virus
I make a work of art for Visual A.I.D.S.
to sell a postcard one year a collage
inspired by Karen and my daily teas
may i say his name, first and last, first
only o.k. how old was he when he died
that was the 80s he must have been 30
something we talk some more try to
subtract get his age right Karen shocked
realizing her mistake she gave him her
soulmate 10 more years than he actually
lived he died in his 20s 28 to be exact
Karen says no one has made a real film
of the early time people tried to make it
I’m sure those who lived through it only
know the failings
me I lost Chuck Peters a man with creative
energy and vision for men’s designer fashion
beyond compare in the 1990s
in Tony I wrote of him and others
tears now in both eyes the one on the right
moves coolly down the left tear catches up
wet face wet cheeks tiny rivulet rivers/
in answer to a request for a poem
i write these words thanks for asking
i have poems written to Peter Harvey
i have poems written to Stanley Stellar
i have poems written to Charles Leslie
i have poems written to Delmas Howe
i have poems written to Robert Giard
i have poems written to Robert Mapplethorpe
and to you
you living
and you who have lost/
at the end of Sarah Schulman’s interview of
Brent Nicholson Earle I turned to Brent and
asked him how he would like to be remembered
and he said “that he remembered his friends.”
i’m glad i asked the question i did of him
and me and others
keeping Brent and friends alive/

hard to say


Photo: Greg Fuchs

Photo: Greg Fuchs

Nathaniel A. Siegel is the author of the poetry collection Tony (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2009). He is an anti-war activist and photographer and, with Regie Cabico, curates the Poetry Marathon at the annual Rainbow Book Fair in New York City. He suggests you listen to the song “Why” by Bronski Beat.

This poem is not previously published and in fact was written expressly for The HIV Here & Now Project. Thank you, Nathaniel.